We're just about ready. People are rolling into Sticky Fingerz for the 7 p.m. debate between the five Democratic candidates for 2nd District Congress -- John Adams, David Boling, Joyce Elliott, Patrick Kennedy and Robbie Wills.
Big night. It's a strong field but you have to choose one to square off against the Republican nominee, Tim Griffin or Scott Wallace, in the race to succeed the unique Rep. Vic Snyder.
I've been talking to spectators. Many are dedicated to individual candidates. But several people were attracted by the venue and indecision. This race has been lost in the noise and millions spent on the U.S. Senate race.
Tonight, another shot at some more sunlight on the candidates.
Our live-streaming has faltered on the technical ability to make it dependable enough. Rather than create frustration, we're going to do without. At least one candidate is talking of attemping it on his website. Try John Adams' effort.
I'll post short updates at twitter.com/arkansasblog #ARK2D.
Others will be Twittering and blogging, too. Let me know and I'll try to add some links. Robbie Wills is Twittering. Blake Rutherford's Think Tank is on the scene.
UPDATE: Stream-of-consciousness live blogging is on the jump. But let me say in closing that this was an impressive performance by all five candidates, with only small, but a few, differences. They are Democrats. They are progressive. The generally didn't shy away from issues that Republicans undoubtedly hunger to raise. November will be exciting whoever the nominee.
The three-minute talks had a touch of humor, some biography and familiar themes: Kennedy emphasized vision, Boling Main Street values; Wills emphasized doing something; Adams, too, touched local roots and desire to make Washington work; Joyce Elliott said the state matters and young people matter. Education lifted her.
1st QUESTION: Support non-discrimination act for gay people. All oppose workplace discrimination, often eloquently, but I note Wills didn't flatly say he'd vote for the ENDA bill.
2nd QUESTION: Woman's right to choose.
Wills respects law, but says he wishes people would "choose life" and that those who have children be cared for.
Adams: "I don't believe the government should criminalize anyone's decision to have an abortion prior to fetal viability." Says there are reasonable restrictions on abortion. Doesn't support attempts to make abortion impossible to get. There are ways to encourage people to carry to term.
ELLIOTT: Support Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose. Objects to those who try to characterize issue as pro-life. It is an issue of choice and anti-choice. Mentions Schiavo case as ill of government intervention in health issues.
KENNEDY: I absolutely support a woman's right to choose.
BOLING: Supports Roe v. Wade.
DEFICITS AND BUDGET BALANCING
Elliott and Adams talk about the need for reduction of military spending and war spending. Kennedy mentioned a possible federal lottery and fiscal education for kids. Wills wants to bring Ark.-style budgeting to D.C.
HOW WOULD YOU BEAT A REPUBLICAN
Elliott says she has the record. Kennedy jabs Griffin and Wills (for proposing Capitol tunnel) says you don't win by running not to lose. Boling notes his time on Vic Snyder's staff. Wills notes he's beaten a Republican and the importance of his home, Faulkner County, to any GOP winning strategy. "I can beat him," he said. Adams is an outsider. "I haven't been part of creating the mess people are so frustrated by."
AUDIENCE MEMBER ASKS ABOUT ENCOURAGING CREATIVE ECONOMY
Question elicits criticism for NCLB. Kennedy would end; Willis and Boling would change it. Adams hits closer to home, talking of local institutions that encourage creativity in music, acting, etc. "I'm the only one up here who taught in a classroom for 30 years," Joyce Elliott said. She quotes from book about creating a creative class. "This country would be well-served if we had capacity to do talent audits" -- find out talents in people that could be honored and supported, "the way we do for the next factory that comes to town."
QUESTION ON USA TODAY STORY ABOUT CUMULATIVE TAX BURDEN, LOWEST SINCE 1950
Candidates don't believe it, essentially, and think taxes high enough for middle and lower class. But system disproportionately favorable to higher income, several say.
CLEAN ENERGY PROPOSALS
Wills tees off on this one. Boling rips OPEC.
Adams would reauthorize it. He says we've shifted to taxing work rather than investments and Democratic values run counter to that.
Elliott: "Estate tax is fair." She notes it's another game in which Republicans have invented a phrase, death tax, to "make people believe it had to do with them when it had nothing to do with average person out there."
WAR ON DRUGS AND FULL PRISONS
Elliott emphasizes treatment (and accountability); also disparate treatment of white and black offenders.
Kennedy: War on drugs hasn't achieved aims. Treatment lacking for meth problems.
Boling: U.S. needs to provide second chance for violators. "Harsh penalties don't strike me as the way we should be going as a country."
Wills: Spending on prisons has been source of frustration and mandatory sentencing has tied judges' hands. "That was not a solution." Also: "Stop reserving jail cells for people we're mad at and reserve them for people we're scared of."
Adams: Help those addicted, but fight to make sure children aren't growing up in dangerous environments.
Boling says Arizona law not way to go. Wills notes he opposed switching federal responsibility for enforcement to states. Adams said he didn't see how people could favor separating families with some legal, some illegal members in the U.S. But he opposes blanket amnesty. Elliott: No simple solution to complex problem. Borders should be secure, but people come for opportunity. Enforcement should be sure to look at employers, not just the immigrants.